Have you met Harry and Ismail?
Right before the exam period I met up with two students who have been on exchange at La Salle this semester, Harry and Ismail. When I requested the interview the boys suggested I could visit them in their flat for a cup of tea. When I showed up, it turned out that they had prepared a delicious lunch, and we had a really nice time eating and chatting. Harry is originally Greek and both of his parents are from Greek families. However, his mother grew up in England and his dad grew up in the United States. During his childhood Harry lived in several places in the US, as well as in London, and he also visited Greece on a regular basis. When he was 18 years old, he decided to move to Copenhagen to study. He is now 21 years old, loves to travel, and spends his spare time going to the gym and listening to hip-hop. Ismail is 22 years old. He is half Danish and half Somalian, but he was born in Denmark. When he was eight years old he moved to Somalia, but as he got a bit tired ofthe African education system, he went back to Denmark when he graduated from high school. He then had to upgrade his qualifications as the two countries have different standards of education. When he had retaken the required subjects, he decided to study a degree at university level. Ismail is, just like Harry, interested in training and fitness and he also used to work as a lifeguard. Both of the boys decided to study at Copenhagen School of Design and Technology, which is a small international academy in the Danish capital, and when they met they quickly became close friends. They study a degree of Business and Economics with IT, and someone who wanted the students to get a job developed the program. It is therefore very practical based, with focus on real life issues. Harry and Ismail decided that they wanted to travel together, and as they work so well together on school projects, they viewed an erasmus trip as a great opportunity. They had several different options, but they both really wanted to go to Barcelona. The reason why they were attracted to Barcelona was that it would allow them to discover a culture and climate different from the Scandinavian one without having to travel too far. Copenhagen Business Academy only allows two students per semester to go to Barcelona, and many of their classmates also applied. Ismail and Harry were very happy that they got selected; they were worried that people with less international backgrounds would be chosen. The boys consider La Salle to be a quite unique place. Their favourite part is the scenery and the location. They like to start their day by walking up the hill toward the mountains. Harry said that as the location is slightly outside the city centre, it makes him able to stay relaxed but also focused. They also like the environment in the classes, with the combination of many Spanish and international students, as well as interacting with professors from so many different countries. Harry called it a “tropical environment”, and they have learned that the students at La Salle are very social and loving. When Harry and Ismail came to La Salle, one of the biggest differences from their Danish university was the size. Their Danish university is smaller and more intimate than La Salle and according to the boys it is also even more focused on a practical learning style, with field trips to company sites and assignments such as helping companies to solve their problems or improving their processes. When I asked them what had been the most challenging aspect during their time at La Salle, they told me that they were not used to studying such a great amount of subject in one semester. At their Danish University, they have one class with the same students working together for a whole year, and all the subjects are integrated into one big project that the students work on for about a month. Therefore, at La Salle they have had to practice their time management and organisation skills to handle working on several projects with several different groups of people at the same time. However, they have enjoyed meeting different people from around the world. As for the boys’ biggest challenge when moving from Denmark to Spain, Harry told me “it has certainly not been the weather.” Their biggest challenge was related to the Spanish language and the communication style. For Harry who has learned to adapt the Scandinavian directness, where people tend to be quite frank and forward, it was a challenge to come to Spain. This style of communication is considered to be rude in the Spanish culture; Spaniards are not ready for this kind of directness in their relaxed lifestyle. However, as Harry is very into communicating, he found it cool to have to adapt to the Spanish ways of communicating, and he quickly learned to cope and to understand the differences. For Ismail it was challenging because he didn't know the language and he found it difficult to interact with people. Now he has learned the basics, and even though he can’t speak too much of the language he has found his way around. In February the boys will go back to Copenhagen, where they will have an internship and write their final thesis before they graduate by the end of 2015. While having lived and studied in Barcelona and being away from Scandinavia for a while, Harry has had time to reflect on his future and he has decided that he would like to get into communication or public relations. He also got an internship in that area and he is excited to learn more about the field. He has always loved to meet new people, to talk to them and to learn more about others’ lives and cultures, so communication has always been a natural thing for him. Harry is very excited to start his working life, to get into a mature working environment and he is very confident that he will find a job. Ismail on the other hand has not figured out exactly what he wants to do after graduation, but he hopes that he will get a clearer idea during his internship. He is also contemplating studying a master’s degree instead of directly entering the labor force.